AS chants of “save TAFE, sack Ted” echoed down central Warrnambool yesterday, dozens of motorists honked their horns to support the 200-or-so students and staff rallying against state government funding cuts.
For almost 45 minutes they rammed home their anger and concerns about the effects of $10 million in cutbacks on South West TAFE, the community and economy.
On their minds was the loss of 43 jobs and revelation that up to 30 courses could be cut across the Warrnambool, Hamilton, Portland and Glen-ormiston campuses.
Unfortunately the man meant to hear the chants, South West Coast MP Denis Napthine, wasn’t within earshot.
Although the protest was staged directly outside his office, Dr Napthine was in Melbourne on parliamentary work.
He will be given a written petition calling for the statewide budgetary cutbacks to be eased.
“These cuts will permeate to the whole community,” said Michael Schack, the South West TAFE branch president of the National Tertiary Education Union.
Australian Education Union vice-president Greg Barclay warned of more job losses from August when the repercussions of new higher course fees became evident.
“Seventeen local government areas including Warrnambool City have condemned the cuts and we urge the south-west community to back the campaign,” he said.
“Across Victoria an estimated 2000 jobs will be lost in the TAFE sector.
“Some courses will go up by 400 per cent and a lot of students won’t be able to afford that.”
Warrnambool-based teacher Mary Blake-John, who is in her 21st year with the TAFE system, told the rally the region could not afford to have more youth going to Melbourne seeking studies.
“We need them here for our businesses and community,” she said.
“As taxpayers we can’t understand the government’s logic.
“This protest is not about teachers, it’s for the students and the community.”
National Tertiary Education Union president for Deakin University, Stephen Mackey, conveyed support from the university sector. “This is regressive social policy,” he said.
Labor yesterday launched an online petition to pressure the government into reversing its cutbacks.